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Monday, 30 November 2009

Mustafa Kemal

One of the things Mausi found a bit astonishing in Ankara was the almost total absence of women with headscarves. There were some of course, but not nearly as much as Mausi had expected. The women in Ankara looked liked the ones in any other European Capital regarding clothes and hair styles. Thanks to their interpreter Mausi learnt a bit more about the history of modern Turkey.

After the Turks had unfortunately sided with the Germans in WW I they took a lot of punishment when the war was lost. Neighbouring states and also those from farther away like Britain occupied those parts of the country that had something to offer. Like oil wells in the south of Anatolia. Between 1919 and 1922 the occupants were driven out by force thanks to a young officer named Mustafa Kemal Pascha, who had been elected Head of the Great National Assembly in 1920. After the peace of Lausanne in 1923 he dismissed the Sultan and tried to transform Turkey into modern state of western European style. He wanted to turn Turkey into a Republic for his people, although he had to use dictatorial means to achieve this.

He abolished for example Arabic characters in books and newspapers and exchanged them for Latin ones. He abolished Islamic law and introduced laicism, the separation of religion and state. He was probaly too far ahead of his people in the 1920's because Mausi has a feeling that his ideas have not really rooted themselves firmly in the Turkish society. Sadly, he died in 1938 at the age of 57. Nonetheless he is still much admired and held in high esteem everywhere. One cannot walk through Ankara without seeing his portrait everywhere and his Mausoleum cannot be overlooked either.

The mausoleum and adjoining museums occupy one of the many hills in Ankara. From up there one probably has the best view over the whole city, in all directions. The museum contains several wax figures of the Kemal Ataturk (Father of all Turks) himself and every bit of his personal or state possession the museum people could get their hands on. It makes a very interesting collection indeed. Still, Mausi was not most impressed by the jewellery nor the porcelain or the state cars but by Kemal's library. There were books about philosophy, history, natural sciences, sociology and encyclopedias in several European languages.

Still, Mausi can't help the feeling that the pendulum is swinging back, despite the western looking women in Ankara. In the country it is quite a different matter and Laicism seems not to be that popular anymore. It will be interesting to see what will happen in the next few years, especially as Turkey wants to become part of the European Union.

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